WALLA WALLA -- The state's first execution in nine years is set to take place here in September.
Cal Coburn Brown, 52, is slated to die on Sept. 10 following a state Supreme Court decision Thursday. Brown has been awaiting execution at Washington State Penitentiary for almost 17 years for the torture and murder of Holly Washa of Burien in 1991. The last execution took place in August 2001 when James Elledge was put to death.
The high court's unanimous decision Thursday dismissed various challenges to the state's lethal injection method and lifted the stay of execution for Brown, who was only hours away from being put to death in March 2009 when he was granted a reprieve.
"Holly Washa's family has waited a long time for justice," state Attorney General Rob McKenna said in a release. "Hopefully, (Thursday's) decision will finally bring that about."
In March 2009, the high court voted 5-4 to stop Brown's execution so he could join the lawsuit filed in Thurston County Superior Court by Darold Stenson, who is awaiting execution for the murders of his wife and business partner in 1993. A third death row inmate, Jonathan Gentry, was also allowed to join the lawsuit. Gentry was convicted in 1991 of the murder of a 12-year old girl near Bremerton.
The executions of Stenson and Gentry remain on hold pending litigation on other issues.
In a Seattle Times article today, Sherilyn Peterson, a defense attorney who tried the case, said the DOC's new execution method is an improvement. But she was disappointed the Supreme Court did not address one of her key issues, the qualifications of the execution team to insert an IV.
"Under either policy, you do need to look at the qualifications of the people doing this," she said.
Peterson suggested the inmates may continue to press their case. "There are other avenues for litigation," she said.
But Sara di Vittorio, an assistant attorney general who tried the case, told the Times that Brown has exhausted his state appeals.
"It makes us actually believe there will be an execution, quickly," she said.
Andy Porter can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.